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Feb 25 2018
by Lindsay Wigo

How One College Student Built a National Organization Promoting Mental Health

By Lindsay Wigo - Feb 25 2018
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Being a college student and managing your homework and free time can be quite a challenge. What about being a college student and running your own national organization?

Meet 20-year-old Gabby Frost, the CEO and founder of Buddy Project, a non-profit organization that raises mental health awareness and aims to prevent suicide and self-harm by pairing people as buddies. The organization caters to children, teens and young adults around the world in an effort to educate and reduce the stigma of mental illness by forming friendships.

Fresh U talked with Gabby and asked about her experiences with creating her own organization while pursuing a degree in Music Industry.

“I was inspired to create Buddy Project due to having friends (from both school and online) that were going through mental illness, self-harm addiction, and suicidal thoughts,” Frost told Fresh U. “I was always supportive of these friends and they often told me how much the support meant to them.”

During early 2013, she came across many people on Twitter who were contemplating suicide and wondered if she could offer any solution to this growing problem. She remembered how much her friends valued her support, so she thought it would be a good idea for people to be paired with a friend. On April 8, 2013, Buddy Project was born.

After almost 5 years of service, Buddy Project continues to thrive. A key factor to the company’s popularity is related to its social media presence.

“The main way I spread the word about Buddy Project is through social media,” Frost said. “It has immensely helped the organization grow.”

As Buddy Project is based on social media, Frost felt it was best to market her organization on those types of platforms. When Buddy Project was first created, she asked people to spread word of it through social media, which turned out to be very successful. The only downside of social media is that it can be hard to spread the word of Buddy Project in person, but Frost is hopeful that the Campus Rep program will help solve that problem.

As CEO, Frost has been doing 95% of the work since its inception, managing all of the website, social media, graphic design and buddy-pairings.

“Although it can be a lot sometimes, it’s completely worth it,” she remarked. 

Frost also explained how in March 2017, she created a Campus Rep program so that students could represent Buddy Project at their own college campuses. A significant amount of people were interested, and the program continued to grow. As of January 2018, over 207,000 people have signed up to be paired with a buddy.

Frost has shared her organization at many different events around the world and has received quite the recognition. In 2014, she got involved with the Shorty Awards after Buddy Project became a finalist for the Teen Activism award.

“It was the first award that Buddy Project was ever a finalist for, so my mom insisted that we go to New York for the award ceremony,” Frost told Fresh U.

Buddy Project received the Teen Activism award the day before the organization turned one year old. Later in 2015, Buddy Project was also a finalist for the Teen Hero Shorty Award, but did not come out with a win. In 2016, Frost officially became a judge for the Shorty Awards and has judged ever since.

“I’ve been lucky to attend the award show since 2014, and get to do it with my friend Carrie, who runs the suicide prevention account Against Suicide," she commented. 

However, the Shorty Awards is not the only recognition that Frost and her organization have received. For instance, she was awarded the Extraordinary Teen award by PBTeen and Glamour Hometown Hero in 2015. She was also the youngest honoree of the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial Award in December 2015, which was given to her by the Northeast Community Center for Behavioral Health. Furthermore, in March 2016, Frost attended the Three Dot Dash Just Peace Summit in New York City, where she met 29 other hard-working teens and was matched with a mentor to help her expand and improve Buddy Project.

Frost was the youngest nominee for the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial Award. Photo by Joyce Frost.
 

To add to her list of travels, Frost was also a keynote speaker at George Washington University’s Recovery Day in Washington, DC. She also spoke at the Oregon GSA Youth Leadership Forum in Portland, Oregon and HackUNL at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Only a few months later, she was given the opportunity to speak at the Girl Scouts National Convention in Columbus, Ohio and take part of a panel session at the Active Minds Conference in Washington, DC.

“I feel so grateful that I’ve been able to travel around the country these past few months and share my story with others.”

Just as college students would assume, though, running an organization while maintaining their grades, social life, and mental health is definitely a challenge.

“I do have trouble here and there with balancing my school responsibilities and my non-profit responsibilities,” Frost said. “I sometimes can’t attend events for my sorority or have to miss class if I’m traveling due to Buddy Project.”

However, Frost told Fresh U that she relies on time management to help her be the best possible student and CEO.

After all, as Frost wrote on Buddy Project's website, "Having just one friend to support you through the hardships of your life can really make a difference. I created Buddy Project to show that to the world."

For more information on Buddy Project’s mission, or if you are interested in becoming a buddy or a campus rep, visit www.buddy-project.org.

Lead Image Credit: The Buddy Project

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Lindsay Wigo - DeSales University

Lindsay is a journalism student and is very excited to be the Editorials Director of Fresh U. She hopes to work in the features and entertainment journalism industry in the future. For more of her work, visit her website: www.lindsaywigo.com

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